Here's a heartwarming plate of familiar food with an unfamiliar name: koshary. It can be spelled and pronounced different ways and have other things mixed in, but the basics are rice, lentils and pasta. What sets this version apart from the rest is the last-minute drizzle of melted butter with crushed red pepper flakes. When that hits the fresh mint, the humble dish sings.
It's a cinch to make with leftover rice and lentils. Canned or boxed cooked lentils and frozen cooked rice work just as well, or you might score those two ingredients on a supermarket salad bar.
A batch created for the photo at right disappeared into my colleagues' lunch bowls with lightning speed, just the kind of affirmation I like.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Kosher salt 1/2 cup dried ditalini pasta or macaroni (may substitute 1 cup-ish leftover cooked pasta) 1 large yellow onion 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Leaves from 2 stems fresh mint 1 1/4 cups cooked lentils (from one 14-ounce can) 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce 1 1/4 cups cooked brown rice (may substitute white rice) Freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons unsalted butter Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and then the dried pasta. Cook according to the package directions, then drain.
Meanwhile, cut the onion into 1/2-inch dice. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and browned in spots. Chop the mint leaves while the onion is cooking. Drain and rinse the lentils.
Stir the tomato sauce into the skillet; as soon as it has heated through, add the rice and lentils. Cook for a few minutes until heated through, then stir in the pasta. Taste and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint, then divide the koshary among bowls you are keeping warm on the stove top.
Add butter to the now-empty skillet, over medium heat. Once it foams, add the pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, swirling to incorporate. Immediately drizzle some of the hot, spiced melted butter over each portion of koshary. Serve right away.
Nutrition information per serving (based on 4): 360 calories, 9 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 560 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar.
Source: Adapted from "Onions Etcetera: The Essential Allium Cookbook," by Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino.